Congolese activists demand King Filip should speak out

King Filip and Queen Mathilde have arrived in Congo at the start of a visit that will take them to the capital Kinshasa and the cities of Lubumbashi and Bukavu. 

Dominique Moorkens, one of the Belgian businessmen accompanying the royals, visited Congo in 2010 with King Albert and Queen Paola.  He is concerned corruption has led to a deterioration of the investment climate but remains optimistic about Congo’s future given the youth of the population: “In Kinshasa 9.8 million of the city’s inhabitants are under 26”.

Social inequality remains an issue in the country.  Foreign businesses do not always play an exemplary role.  Energy giant Glencore that also operates a Belgian division recently admitted bribing officials in Congo and paid a 1.1 billion dollar fine imposed by a US court.

Donat Kambole, a human rights activist speaks of the inhumane situation experienced by Congolese miners and their families. For years now this lawyer has been castigating the fact big energy firms make mega profits while the local population live in poverty. Kambole hopes King Filip will acknowledge the needs of local people when he visits Lubumbashi and draw the authorities’ attention to their obligations.

“State control is weak and the state doesn’t protect people: “King Filip, can you take up subjects like the seizure of the country, forced expulsions, pollution and poverty when you speak with our leaders?”

In Bukavu the Belgian royals meet up with gynaecologist and Nobel Prize winner Denis Mukwege, who champions the rights of Congolese women. 

Rose Tuombeane, a women’s rights activist, brings women together to press for their rights.  She has already organised sit-ins and demos.  A state of emergency is declared in the Kivu Provinces where the government faces a challenge from rebels.  Tuombeane is seeking greater protection for women and the right to free speech as well as the ability to press women’s demands at international fora.

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